Why I am Mormon

Nov 18, 12 Why I am Mormon

In the tradition of the Sunstone Symposium’s “Why I Stay” and “Pillars of My Faith,” my brothers and I decided to begin a series called “Why I Am Mormon.” Following is the first of these personal essays, written by me, Mike Barker. I hope you enjoy it.

 

“Lord, I Believe; Help Thou With Mine Unbelief”

I am the Young Men’s President in my ward, and I rarely wear a white shirt. Today one of my sixteen-year-old priests asked if I would help bless the sacrament; I accepted the invitation. It has been more than 10 years since I have blessed or passed the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. I went up with my copy of Fiona and Terryl Givens’ new book, The God Who Weeps, in hand so I could read it during the passing of Communion. The young man told me he would bless the bread and that I could bless the water…

I am a doubter. I am a skeptic. But I haven’t always been. I wish I could go back to when my faith was simpler.  I wish I had the faith of others in my congregation and could categorically declare what they “know.” I cannot do that anymore. My relationships with my church, my ward, and my God are complicated. These relationships are often held in high tension. This week was an especially hard week for me. I wondered if I still had a place in my church community. I wondered why God was not letting me know if he was there. I prayed and prayed. No answers were coming.

My Journey

Seven years ago I picked up an issue of Newsweek with a picture of a stained-glass representation of Joseph Smith’s theophany that we know as “The First Vision.” I opened it up and read about a man, Richard Bushman, who had just given a presentation on Joseph Smith to an audience that had high-ranking LDS leaders. He was worried as to how it would be received. It turned out that he had written a book, Rough Stone Rolling. I bought it. I read it. I thought, holy crap. Here was the colorful Joseph Smith that I had suspected but never knew existed. He was complicated. He was fallible. He spoke for God. He revealed new scripture. He was a polygamist.

Because Dr. Richard Bushman relied so heavily on Tod Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness that I decided to read Compton’s book. As I read I thought, holy crap. Here I learned of polyandry. This could not be of God. It caused real pain. How could Joseph lie to Emma? How could a wife of Brigham Young be left to fend for herself by God’s prophet? This could not be of God. I could never, never, never treat my wife like that. It caused real pain. I had no one I could talk to about what I was feeling. I could speak to no one about my anger. I could speak to no one about my pain. I tried to talk with my wife; she did not want to hear about Joseph’s polygamy. She, like most women I have found in the church, find it less bothersome that Brigham was a polygamist, but they don’t want to hear about Joseph’s polygamy – and especially not about his involvement in polyandry. I was alone. One day I finally told my wife, Cathy, that I was considering leaving the church. She began to listen.

I told her of my doubts, my concerns. I told her about Joseph’s money digging. I told her about the use of his brown seer stone in his receiving of the revelation that we call The Book of Mormon. I told her about Mountain Meadows Massacre. I told her about the problems with the Book of Abraham. I told her about the deep, deep, love I have for our faith tradition. I told her of the beauty of Mormon theology. I told her that I loved her. She continued to listen.

I thought that if God would just let me know that He was out there, I could hang on to my Mormonism.  I prayed to God for some sign that he was real. I pleaded, I cried, I bargained, I argued, I became angry, I yelled at God – no answer.

So what now?

There are few things that I can say I “know”. I am becoming less comfortable with certainty and more comfortable with ambiguity. Doubt, I have found, is not the opposite of faith. As Dr. Phillip Barlow has articulated: “Questions are good. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, but absolute, antiseptic certainty is the opposite of faith.” I believe that. That is what I have experienced and this is why:

About five years ago I discovered podcasts. I wanted to know if Richard Bushman, a past Stake President, past Chair of the History Department at Columbia University, church patriarch, and temple sealer had been interviewed. I came across a podcast run by John Dehlin. John interviewed Dr. Bushman for five hours. Later John would interview other LDS intellectual giants such as Phillip Barlow, Gregory Prince, Carol Lynn Pearson, Joanna Brooks, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Matthew Bowman, Michael Quinn, Janna Reiss, Claudia Bushman, Kristine Haglund, Fiona & Terryl Givens, etc. Here I found people, smart people, who knew of the very human element in our LDS history and still chose to stay. As I listened, I kept notes and wrote down quotes. It helped me. I eventually found Dan Wotherspoon and his Mormon Matters podcast. I did the same as I had done with John’s podcast. On one of these podcasts, Dr. Gregory Prince said, Own your religion, don’t borrow it. If you are to make it work for yourselves and especially if you wish to make an impact on the larger church, you have to read, think, and write deeply for the rest of your lives; Google will not get you there and neither will the blogs.” On these podcasts were people who owned their religion. I could own my religion. I could make it work.

Last December I sat in our stake center as our stake choir presented its Christmas concert. They sang  Hosanna from The Lamb of God (click here to listen). Suddenly and unexpectedly, a feeling of comfort and peace came over me.  God had laid his hand on my heart and let me know he was really there. Finally after all the prayers, pleading, bargaining, yelling, and arguing, God manifested Himself to me through song. I cried because that’s what Mormons do – and I am Mormon. People from the choir came up to me afterwards, almost giddy that they “had made me cry.”  I have to say, they annoyed me. They did not realize that through that song, I had felt God after months and months of wrestling with him. I hear it rumored that this year the choir will perform the same song and some are “hoping they can make Brother Barker cry again.” I am annoyed.  That evening, last December, was a sacred moment for me. I refuse to have it cheapened.

My daughters

I worry about my daughters. I worry about my oldest who wants to go on a mission. I worry about how she will feel as younger boys tell her what to do. I worry that the rigid,narrow, dogmatism that can exist in the mission-field will crush her loving, tolerant, expansive Mormon spirit.   I worry that my youngest daughter’s smile might someday turn to tears as she learns she has very little say in the decisions that are made around her at church.

My oldest daughter, who is ten years old, asked me this past summer if anyone still practices polygamy. I told her about Warren Jeffs. She did not like what he had done. I then asked her what she would think if I told her Joseph Smith had married at least one teenage girl and had married women that were already married to other men. She said it would bother her. I told her that he had indeed married women that were already married and had married teenage girls. She paused and then said. “You know, my friends and I were talking about the book I am reading, Lemony Snicket. Lemony Snicket said that ‘…everyone is like a chef salad. There are the good parts like the tomatoes and the bad parts like the onions’.” She then looked at me and said, “I guess Joseph Smith was like a chef salad. There was good stuff in him and bad stuff.”

Teaching

Somewhere along the line, I began teaching the Priest Quorum in my ward. I wanted the boys to think. I would email them articles to read in preparation for my lessons. I made them work. Sometime last year, two of them came up to me after a lesson and expressed the most sincere appreciation for my lessons. They said I should start a blog.

I began to speak with my brothers about church history, about God, about apologetics, about LDS scholarship. My youngest brother, Jonathan, said I should start a blog. I laughed.

Well, last year, the three Barker brothers started a blog and here I am now.

Last year I got called to be the Young Men’s president in my ward. My bishop was aware of the real struggle I have had. He said he had been impressed because I had invited a few of the college-aged young men that were home for the summer over to my house. We watched New York Dolls and we chatted about it. We chatted about faith. I let them know that if they ever had doubts, I would listen. We ate pizza. I love those men.

My deepest desire for my teenage boys is that they may find, feel, and see the beauty of their faith. I don’t want them to leave. I don’t want them to feel the angst I have felt in my faith journey. I am a big advocate of what some have called “inoculation.” That is, let the boys know up front and from a reliable source about the stickier issues of our LDS history. The idea is that if they know about these things earlier, it will not cause a faith crisis later in life because they will be inoculated to the issue. I taught them about Joseph Smith and seer stones. I taught them about the priesthood and temple ban once imposed upon those of black African descent. I was doing it because I love them. I was met with great resistance from adults. After some thought and speaking with my bishop (who supported my efforts) and Dr. Phillip Barlow, I decided it would be best to abandon my plans of inoculation. As Dr. Barlow told me, “If people see what you are doing as damaging, then perhaps you are doing more harm than good. I think you have made the right decision to stop. And, you owe your bishop a box of chocolates.” I still need to give him that box of chocolates.

Today

…The church service started just as the fourteen- and fifteen-year-old boys were finishing up the preparation of the Lord’s Supper. I then stood up and helped the young man next to me, Stuart, cover the Eucharist with a table cloth. As I did so, I thought of something I heard for the first time on a podcast I participated in. Some have articulated the idea that the table represents the bed upon which Jesus was laid in the tomb. The cloth we use to cover the sacramental emblems represent his shroud. I paused as I thought of myself taking on the role of Mary and the other women preparing Christ’s body for burial. What a powerful image for me.

The formalities of an LDS worship service were done. The sacramental hymn was sung as Stuart and I broke the bread. As I looked down at the tray and my hands breaking bread, my mind went back two thousand years. I pictured Jesus’ hands breaking bread for his disciples; my hands had become His. A feeling of peace and love came over me. I pondered how the bread I was breaking represented Christ’s body that was broken for us. I thought how I wished my daughters could some day experience what I was experiencing; I wish they could break the bread and bless it. It was good that I was there with Stuart.

The deacons passed the bread and brought it back to the sacrament table. Stuart and I covered the empty bread trays and we uncovered the water. I kneeled down and pulled out the microphone with the written words of the prescribed sacramental prayer. I read it out loud earnestly; thought about what I was reading. Again, I thought of Jesus declaring that the wine of the Passover now represented his blood that he was going to spill for those that were with him that Passover evening and for all of humanity. I stood up and passed the water trays to the deacons that I claim as my own; I am their Young Men’s leader. I pictured them as Jesus’ Twelve Apostles as I gave them the trays of water. A feeling of peace and love came over me. I wished my daughters could someday experience what I was experiencing; I wish they could bless the water and hand the trays to the deacons.

Between the passing of the bread and the water, I picked up Terryl and Fiona Givens’ book, The God Who Weeps. I read, “Soberingly, if we are co-eternal with God, then it is not God’s creation of the human out of nothing that defines our essential relationship to Him. It is His freely made choice to inaugurate and sustain loving relationships, and our choice to reciprocate, that are at the core of our relationship to the Divine.” Today God was showing me his love that he freely gives as I sat there pondering the Eucharist and what Christ has done for me.

Doubt, Evidence, and Choice

Freely chosen belief cannot be coerced upon us by evidence. I have come to learn that there must be good evidence for belief as well as disbelief. If there is not, then belief cannot truly be a free choice. “But belief itself is a choice I wrestle with God for, somewhere in a dark swampland, my inner landscape; where not only God’s credibility, but my own are at stake” (Wendy Ulrich). I believe because I choose to believe. Just as God freely chooses to “sustain a loving relationship” with me, I freely choose to reciprocate that relationship. God does not tolerate me, he loves me. I do not tolerate God, I love God. Because of that love, I am called upon, not to tolerate others, but to love them; I pray that those with whom I share the pews at church will reciprocate that love towards me. It is within my Mormon faith, a faith that has been given to me by my parents, that I have found and felt God’s infinite love.

So what do I believe? Can I declare that I truly “know” anything of religious significance? I know God is infinitely good. He is the locus of goodness. I know I am a child of Heavenly Parents. I know that Jesus of Nazareth was not only a real historical figure, but He is exactly what he so radically declared he was: He is the Son of God; He was and is the promised Messiah. He suffered, died on a cross, and resurrected three days later. I believe that through Him, I can become like our God – whatever that means. I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I believe Joseph Smith was like a chef salad; he was truly flawed. I believe that God can only do that which is logically possible. He cannot make a square circle. He cannot make a married bachelor. He cannot force people to freely choose to love and follow him. Nonetheless, he chooses to work with us imperfect beings. He chooses to honor our agency. He allows us to screw up – often in quite horrible ways. I believe the Book of Mormon is good. I believe it is an historical record of an ancient people. I believe that within the LDS church, real priesthood power exists that allows us to enter into a covenantal relationship with our God. I believe that our relationship with God can transform us. I believe that the LDS church and those that adhere to its tenets can change. I believe that God is bigger than the LDS church. I also believe in the universalistic tenets of Mormonism, and I willingly hold those in tension with its exclusive claims. I really, really hope that my relationship with my wife, my daughters, and eventually my grandchildren will continue after this life. Oh, how I hope that is true.

Why am I Mormon? I am Mormon because I willingly – and with my eyes, mind, and heart fully open – choose to be Mormon. I am Mormon because I doubt. I am Mormon because I hope. I am Mormon because I believe. I am Mormon because I know. I am Mormon because I choose to wrestle with God in my “dark night of the soul”. I am Mormon because I choose to wrestle with the LDS church. I choose to be Mormon because it is within Mormonism that I have found God. “It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt” (Fyodor Dostoevsky).

 

Other Posts You May Like

62 Comments

  1. Jon

    Amen and amen.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  2. ShellSea5 /

    What a beautiful post. Really. Beautiful.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • Thank you Shell. During the Lord’s Supper this past Sunday, I just thought, “I got to write something. What I am experiencing right now is unexpected.” I am glad you enjoyed the essay. I was thinking, have you posted a comment before? If not, how did you find our blog?

      mike

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. Garrett /

    Michael, I really appreciate your thoughtfulness in writing this post. As you well know for a while I have been struggling with many things church related. One of the hardest things for me is that as I have been struggling I try to pray to God. I feel empty after praying, I feel like it is a very one sided conversation. This is hard for me, I now that if I contact my father, regardless of where I am at in life that he will pick up the phone and talk to me. I know that we can have an honest conversation and he talks with me. In my communication with God I feel like it is me that is doing the work and getting no response from him. If I am so important in his eyes, why is it so hard to talk with him. I have been told to keep praying and praying and praying until my answer comes…but that is difficult when I don’t feel reassurance in my struggles. I appreciate that good people like you have found a way to stay in the church! I am trying my best on this path of Mormonism but there are a lot of things that make it very hard at times for me to want to stay.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  4. I loved your post on “why I am a mormon”. You were very honest and thoughtful with your struggles. I think sometimes members of the church (including me at times), just go through the motions…we go to church because we are supposed to go to church, and supposed to show up for our callings. They don’t question. For some they don’t question because they already went through the struggle, and came out the other side. For others, its too difficult to question, they go with the flow because its easier. I applaud you for questioning, for putting in the effort, and for engaging in the difficult struggle with God.

    As a woman, I say to you not to stress so much about your daughters in the church. They will find their voice and will know Father’s plan for them. As you know I served a mission at 24 years old, and was among ‘boys’ who were my leaders. Yes, I was wiser and more mature than them, I had a degree, had lived in the ‘real’ world, and had so much more life experience. Yet, as a new missionary, I realized they had much to teach me, and at the end of my mission as a senior missionary, I felt a comradery among the other missionaries I had never before experienced and not since experienced. We were all brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what the title. I felt they respected my wisdom and contribution to the mission just as any other elder. I entered the mission thinking that I was going to be the mission nurse, but my Father had other plans for me. He had to first humble me (not an easy task those first couple of months in the field) before he could mold me. How grateful I am for that experience.

    Thanks again,
    Jenny

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  5. Kylan

    Extremely moving, Mike. I appreciate your thoughts, here expressed so elegantly. I especially agree with what you said regarding the Mormon trope of weeping – I have never been comfortable with the tendency members have to valorize the act of crying, as it shifts the weight of a spiritual experience out of internal privacy into an external, public zone. Speaking of which, I’d love to have another afternoon conversation with you when I return for a couple weeks this Christmas. In the meantime, here’s a fascinating article I read in Sunstone, which I think you might like: http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&context=scott_abbott

    Thanks again. Even when you write, I feel as though you’re speaking directly to me. I appreciate the struggle that must have gone into crafting this post. Hoping you’re well.

    Kylan

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • Kylan,

      There were a few specific people i was thinking of when I wrote this and one of them was you. I am glad you enjoyed it. I am going to print up the article you linked to. It looks very interesting. Do you know the author?

      I look forward to chatting with you in December. Any chance Katy is coming to Medford too?

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  6. Michael, that was such an amazing story. It’s so refreshing to know those that are going through the same things you are. Thank you for being there for Garrett, it means so much to me.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  7. Tana Lacy /

    You made me cry. Surprisingly, not a difficult thing to do. I love you and appreciate you sharing your struggles and triumphs with us. The Lord has blessed you tremendously with an inquisitive mind and I love that you share your moments with us. I love the entire idea of letting others share in the knowledge and “Ah Ha” moments that we get. Thank you so much.

    Tana

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  8. Wow….I am not alone. I rarely cry and tears streamed from my eyes as I read this. Thank you for sharing Mike. As an intellectual, critical (questioning), educated, independent, and LDS woman I have never “fit in” and I frequently question things. Your words touched sore and frail areas in my heart and mind…thank you for having a bravery I have not yet been fully able to embrace. Your words helped liberate and strengthen me in a way.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • Nope. You are not alone. When I use to home-teach you guys, I always sensed you had a different perspective on your Mormonism than others. I just couldn’t get it out of you – and believe me, I tried!

      I am glad you liked my story. Cathy loves, loves, loves being your visiting-teaching companion.

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  9. Josh Wallace
    Josh Wallace /

    Thank you Mike! Thank you for the very powerful reminder of what the sacrament is and should mean to me as I partake. Thank you for your willingness to share. Thank you for the love that you have for your wife and daughters and our young men (past and present). Thank you for your testimony, your patience and your strength to keep moving forward. I thank you for your love of God and His son. This is so much better than a box of chocolates!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  10. Oh, the chocolates are still coming. I just haven’t bought them yet.

    When I was up there with Stuie, I knew I had to write my thoughts down. It was quite amazing to be up there with him and it was very cathartic for me to put my words in print.

    I am so happy you enjoyed my essay Bishop Wallace and I am so blessed to have association with you.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  11. Tamera LeBeau /

    Thank you for your honest and heart-felt comments. This blog is a great forum for discussion. Too many people feel alone if they start to question or have doubts. That’s a very important thing you guys are doing by providing an open discussion environment and it makes my heart glad. :)

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  12. Jon Barker

    Thank you Mike. Thank you for reminding me of what the sacrament really is about and what it does for each of us.

    While the song is totally unrelated, I heard this this morning on my way to school and found it appropriate. You should recognize the song

    You know she wishes it was different
    She prays to God most every night
    And though she’s quite sure He doesn’t listen
    There’s a tiny hope in her He might
    She says I pray
    All of my prayers, they fall on deaf ears
    Am I supposed to take it on myself
    To get out of this place

    Oh there’s an emptiness inside her
    And she’d do anything to fill it in
    And though its red blood bleeding from her now,
    It felt like cold blue ice in her heart
    And she feels like kicking out all the windows
    And setting fire to this life
    She would change everything about her
    Using colors bold and bright
    When all the colors mix together
    To grey, and it breaks her heart

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  13. Garrett /

    Jon Barker,

    Jon, the words to that song ring very true for me. Thanks for sharing

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  14. Cody (C-doggy dog) Calderwood /

    Another fantastic post Michael. One thing I loved so much about the book “Rough Stone Rolling” was that it showed how human and imperfect Joseph Smith was. Bushman couldn’t have picked a better title for the book. Joseph truly was a rough stone, rolling along being polished by the Lord. In my experience, people who read this book have one of two responses. Some unfortunately read and come away saying, “see, the church can’t be true. Look at what a lying, cheating sneak Joseph Smith was. I knew it couldn’t be true.” Others, like me, come away saying, “there is no other explanation than this is the work of God. There is no way a man as imperfect and uneducated as Joseph Smith could bring about such a great work as this church on his own.” Reading that book made me constantly reflect on Alma 37:6 “Now ye may suppose that this is afoolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by bsmall and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.”
    Like you, I love to question things and ask why. I love to dig deeper. I find that through my questioning and searching I gain a much more profound understanding and appreciation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Oddly though, the more I learn the more I realize how much I really don’t know. But, like you, I believe in much.
    For me, what has kept me grounded in the church is the cumulative sum of all of my spiritual experiences and the miracles I have received/witnessed. As a sum whole, to me it becomes undeniable that God loves us and is mindful of us. There are still some things I can’t explain, and some issues that bother me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get an answer to them, but at least I know what I do know. And what I do know outweighs my questions and doubts. Thank you for your heart felt words Michael.
    Next time you are in Utah, you, Paul, and your families need to come up to my house for an afternoon of fun, but only if you promise to bring the debonair pipe of yours you sport in your photo.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • Cody! Glad you made it back to our blog. I am so happy you enjoyed my essay. Thank you for your kind response.

      Yes, when we come out to Utah, we should all hang out together. No promises on the pipe though!

      And I agree 100% with your response to TJ

      Blessings,

      Mike

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  15. Kathy Ludlow /

    It’s great and good that you want your daughters to have the same powerful and positive experiences that you have had. Your telling of this gave me to remember that I have wished for my husband to know how God-like it is to carry and deliver out of my body a tiny human being, The incredible spiritual loving experience that was mine to nurish my babies from my breast, so I tell him :) not the same? well this is mine he has to get his own but we do enjoy sharing with each other. I totally get that you want the same for your daughters that you have experienced, but they have to get their own :) It is an awesome plan!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • Kathy,

      Thank you for your thoughts.

      As a side note, we are low on women’s voices on our blog. If you ever want to write a post for us, please do it! I want to hear more of your ideas.

      mike

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  16. Thank you, thank you for being willing to share. In most ways, I could’ve been reading my own diary here.

    Briefly, does the historicity of the BOM present any unresolved problems for you?

    Thank you, again. I read this during EQ while the teacher was explaining that doubting and questioning of church doctrine and teachings is born of sin. Your writings were much more inspiring, thought out, and peaceful to me to read.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • TJ,

      I am glad you found the essay worth your time. I am sorry about EQ. When we equate doubt with sin, it allows us to not deal with the real issue at hand. Instead, what we do is point a finger at “the sinner” and say, “Stop sinning and the problem will go away.” I don’t know why we do that as an LDS culture. Is it easier than dealing with the real struggle?

      Regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon, I assume you speak of the anachronisms, the verbatim KJV text that shows up in the Book of Mormon, etc. I don’t know why, but it has never really bothered me. I know it does bother many, many people. I hesitate to take on the role of an apologist, so I hesitate to offer answers to many of the issues that people have. I will share these few thoughts:

      1)Many look at facts as being some sort of plutonic idea that sit out there in the ether. Facts have to be interpreted and then presented as evidence. The evidence then has to be interpreted. I just received an article from my Alma Mater. The cover says, “Across the Evidence Divide: A Fiery Faculty Debate, a Search for Common Ground, and an Example for the Nation.” I guess that the way I interpret the evidence is just different than how others interpret the same evidence. I don’t necessarily say they are wrong and I am right, I just see it differently. I do strongly believe that so much of these problems would be less of a problem if we and the LDS church, as an institution, spoke about them openly with our children at a young age. Let’s just talk about it.

      2)I do believe the anachronisms are a problem for many and I don’t disparage them for how they see the evidence. I just ask that they offer me the same respect.

      You are not alone TJ. Thank you for your comments, they made me feel good.

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  17. Cody Calderwood /

    TJ,

    That mentality of doubt being born of sin has been so destructive. It makes me shake my head.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  18. After a depressing Sunday at church I came home and thought again about the most common theme in my prayers: please let me know if I should continue bringing my daughters to church. I don’t feel like I ever get an answer, just silence.

    To come and read this thoughtful post and be able to relate so much to what you have said has brought tears to my eyes. It is a reminder that answers to heartfelt prayers come in the most unusual ways sometimes. Thank you.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • My goodness. Thank you DK and thank you for the kind words you posted on FmH. I have had many Sundays like you had today. Although the particulars are different I am sure, I am equally sure that ontologically they are the same.

      I worry that those of us that struggle, question, and doubt become ostracized by our community and thus are pushed over to the “non-believer” group – when we don’t exactly want to be there.

      Thank you again for your very kind words. If you would ever like to contribute to our blog, please contact us. We would love to hear more of your story.

      mike

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  19. Camille /

    Thank you Mike. Mostly for being willing to share and put that all out there. It takes a lot of raw emotion.

    1 – I love what your daughter said about cobb salad. We are ALL cobb salad! Me, You, Men of God, Neighbors, Friends, Family and that annoying child that lives across the street… (that was a reminder for me. haha.)

    2 – I’m still working through my own issues. Mostly silently – it makes it so much more painful. I am in YW right now and sometimes I want to beat the manuals over someone’s head. I hear we’re getting new ones next year though. I’m hopeful for improvement.

    3 –

    **I got interrupted by my children and I can’t remember for the life of me what the 3 was. Sad. lol

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • I think I spelt cobb salad wrong! Thanks for reading my essay Camille. It’s amazing to think we haven’t seen each other in 20 years, yet we experience similar things in church.

      Regarding YW lessons. I have heard the same concerns from many people. One of my biggest concerns is the pedagogy of how modest is taught within the common parlance of our LDS community. With that in mind, I am in the middle of teaching a multi-part lesson to my priest quorum on modesty using a better pedagogical model than what is normally used.

      Next week or the week after I am going to post my lesson notes. It should incite an interesting discussion.

      mike

      p.s. she said chef salad, so I am good. Ha!

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  20. Camille /

    Michael Barker,

    This is just evidence of the fact that I love me some cobb salad!

    And don’t get me started about modesty lessons. My head will explode and then we’ll have ourselves a mess.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  21. Chareine /

    At Michael’s request, I have posted an email that I sent to him privately.

    My dearest son,

    I read your post on your blog today. My heart sorrows for the struggle that you have experienced and that I had no clue of your war with God. I am so glad that your wife was/is wise enough to listen and that she is there for you. I am grateful that your daughters are being raised in a home that is happier and more secure than the home in which you were raised.

    I am sorry that your faith is no longer simple but I am so grateful that you are committed to hanging on. Sometimes while we just go through the motions, it gets us through the moment. Because of our obedience, we can then do right things for right reasons.

    To say that I understand your struggle would be to cheapen your hard earned and won experiences with God. Let it suffice to say that I love you. I am glad that you are my son.

    God bless you my beloved son.

    All my love,

    Mom

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  22. John Means /

    Mike,
    Thanks for posting this. You are one of my oldest friends, and I love you like a brother (a brother I haven’t seen in a while. :) ) I frequently catch bits and pieces of you blogs and postings, while I’m at work, and don’t have the time there to read them in their entirety. Usually I find myself annoyed and wondering why you, and your little Bros. are picking at the church, and focusing on the controversial topics, many of which have distracted and destroyed the faith of so many good people. I’ve pondered your motives, and go back and forth in my mind guessing your intentions. I have a few friends on facebook who have left the church and are now actively trying to drag as many others as they can with them, they make me sad, and their initial posts and comments very much reminded me of some of the points you’ve brought up in the past, and caused me to worry about you. I’m rambling, I started off thanking you, and that is what I mean to do. Thank you for helping me to understand where you are coming from. I’m so glad you are getting confirmations from the Lord. His hug is the best. Hang in there.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  23. Russ C

    Thank you for reminding me to THINK, PRAY, STUDY, and SHARE my thoughts more. Love you dude!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  24. Joel Wallace /

    I am always happy for those that espouse unconditional faith, but I am much happier to hear of faith gained through the crucible of adversity and doubt. It seems much better earned. And of course the important thing is that faith is earned, not given. I hope you keep on searching, earning and increasing in faith. I enjoyed your essay very much Mike. If Josh doen’t want the box of chocolate, give me to his pa. : )
    Mr. Wallace

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  25. Joel Wallace /

    That would be: “give em to his pa”. Spell checker is always trying to make me do right, even when I don’t want to do right.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • Unfortunately Joel, you have now inadvertently christened yourself with a new nick-name. I will enjoy calling you “pa” next time I see you in the OR.

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts. I appreciate it.

      mike

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  26. Camille /

    Chareine,

    What a sweet mom you have! Love.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  27. Kathy Ludlow /

    Michael Barker,

    cool, thanks :)

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  28. I enjoyed reading this post!

    You mentioned that you no longer “inoculate ” others about the so-called stickier parts of church history. I would love it if you would share more about your decision. Does this mean you stopped teaching a more complete history to even your own kids? Did you stop only because someone was threatened? We have shared things with our kids and our parents have given us all kinds of grief about it! Im curious about your reasons to stop and how you go about religious discussions now!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • EM,

      Let me try to clarify without breaking any confidence.

      One of my biggest concerns with the young men in my ward is that they eventually run into some of the more difficult parts of our LDS history, feel betrayed for not learning about it and then leave the church. When I became YM’s president, I out-right stated that I would approach these issues in combined meetings with all the Aaronic priesthood quorums about once every three months. I had my bishop’s blessing.

      There are adults that are concerned with my approach for several reasons. I must respect the parents’ choices even though they are wrong. I know of the pain that people feel over these issues. I know of people who have left the church over these issues. It can be prevented. Most feel that these things should be approached by the parents in the home; I agree 100%. The problem is that most Americans don’t read and most LDS members don’t read about their history. So, parents say, “Let me teach this stuff,” but they don’t have the knowledge of what the issues are. I sound arrogant. I know.

      So, if people see what I am doing as damaging, then indeed I am creating more harm than good. However, taking the advice of Gregory Prince and Phillip Barlow, I will every-so-often just drop hints about stuff. If the boys want to discuss it further, I will. I am not going to provide a white-washed history, but I won’t give a lesson specifically on a certain “tough part” of LDS history either. The whole thing saddens me. The YM really enjoyed the lessons.

      Since I teach the Priest Quorum every Sunday, I have not completely abandoned my teaching approach. There is a possibility that they may go on missions at age 18. This puts a tremendous pedagogical burden on the parents and on the ward.

      In my home, we speak openly about this stuff. My daughters (10 and 6 years-old) know Joseph and Brigham were polygamists. They know Joseph married women that were already married. When we do family scripture study, I read out of the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon while the rest of the family reads out of the 1981 version. This allows my daughters to see that there have been changes. Now, I don’t want to give the impression that all we do in the Barker home is talk about the more difficult things. My daughters just know that nothing is off the table. I get no push-back from my in-laws (my mom-in- law has actually done two posts for us), nor my widowed mother.

      Did I answer your question OK?

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  29. Rama Cheromaya /

    Hello my brother, son of my mother :)
    I had a really awesome conversation with Paul earlier that led me to check out your page. I am in the early stages of my recovery from my mormonphobia LOL, not that I wish to rejoin, but I want to be free from judging all mormons based upon the trauma of my years growing up in the church. Paul invited me to check out your blog, and based upon the good feeling in my belly about it I have been checking out your posts. It is refreshing to find a place of realness and honesty in your writing. Many of the topics raise questions that I struggled with and found no place to dialogue about in the church. The answer was always said for me not to question and to “just have faith.” I think that the church is really blessed to have you two warriors. Mormon or not, it takes great courage to speak your truth with open eyes, minds and hearts. I hear the love you have for your daughters in your writing and the space you are holding for them to be able to stand in their truth and their power as empowered women in the church one day. It is touching and inspiring. I do not know you and have not seen or had contact with you since I was 6 years old, but I feel akin to you and I love you and I am grateful for who you are. Keep doing what you are doing! Thank you! The world needs more courage like yours <3
    Big love,
    your lil sis
    Rama :)

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  30. So glad to read this. Would love to articulate my thoughts and feelings as you have. But it will have to wait until I have come to “own my religion”. Glad to have found your blog. Thank you, thank you.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  31. Wonderfully honest testimony and inspiring. Those young men you have stewardship over are very lucky to have you. You are so blessed to have a bishop who is broad minded and cares about the heart. Most of us who can relate to your feelings aren’t that lucky and are dying on the vine withering away being marginalized in their branches and wards, seen as less faithful or on the fringe. Your HONEST faith is what will make you a successful instrument in the lord’s hands! Good for you. Do not grow weary in this work you are doing. People read it and need it!!!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  32. Tracy /

    Michael. I really loved this piece. You took the reader on a journey and then wrapped it up with hope. You are not the only one who feels the way you do. Bravo to you and your brothers for having this awesome blog.

    I would like to poke at something you mentioned above in the post….an idea that has ALWAYS bugged me, and actually bugs many other women I know, with whom I’ve confided this hurtful (to me) topic to. The idea of polygamy without polyandry.
    There. I said it. Whew. I will be irrevocably on the map about this. You mentioned that you discovered along the way, all about Joseph’s polygamy, but more than that….the polyandry. Your post mentioned that “Here I learned of polyandry. This could not be of God. It caused real pain.” My crazy gut reaction when you mentioned it? Relief! A sense of true fairness and equality. Rather than a sense of loathing, I felt hope.

    Permit me try to explain this. First, let me start of by saying, I adore my husband and I could currently ONLY handle the one. I love him to pieces, and I love our children. I have no inclination towards looking for anyone else. However, I think that most of us have had more than one love in our life. Whether this be from dating someone (or many other well-suited someones), before you married your spouse, or perhaps you’ve married, divorced and remarried again, or even lost a spouse to remarry later on….my point is that we’re all capable of and HAVE loved other people. From painful, personal experience, I know that it’s possible to love more than one person at the same time. I ultimately had to make some painful choices to wind up with the one, awesome husband I have today. Conversely, I am sure it is the same for many of the men out there.

    But what has also been a source of deep pain for me is the fact that in the Old Testament, and even with the restoration of the Church, ONLY men were allowed to have more than one spouse. Talk about feeling like eternal chattle. I know that polygamy was used sometimes because of convenience. I know that often times it was an act of kindness for a widowed or single woman who had nowhere to go or no other prospects. But don’t tell me it didn’t happen because of desire as well. Why else would you wanna marry someone? I think it can safely be said that in general, a single woman without a man’s support had it REALLY tough back then (ancient biblical times and through the early 20th century – Not that today doesn’t have its extreme challenges!). I have struggled with the idea of polygamy being a part of essential doctrine and restoration of the church, not necessarily because of the practice of having more than one wife, BUT because this same opportunity isn’t extended to women if they so desired.

    NOW, for the time being, while we are here on this earth, it makes a lot of sense, especially from both a biological and genealogical standpoint that, if there is only the one father, even though there are many wives, the lines can easily be traced. There’s no confusion as to whom the father would be. I get it. I also feel that it’s much less common for men to easily extend love or a natural affection to children other than his own (with the exceptions of, say, nephew/nieces). I am NOT trying to open a can of worms here by saying men can’t and don’t love children other than they’re own. I know that’s not true. However, you also can’t contradict the statistics that child abuse is 8 times more likely to be carried out on a step child (or the child of the woman a guy is living with). “Living with their married biological parents places kids at the lowest risk for child abuse and neglect, while living with a single parent and a live-in partner increased the risk of abuse and neglect to more than eight times that of other children”. This doesn’t let girlfriends/step-mothers off the hook either. I know they are perpetrators as well!

    In our “natural-man” state, we just can’t seem to get it together. Being altruistic and loving, even to ALL children, just isn’t gonna happen. So, even in this current day and age, where science has caught up to us and we now CAN tell who the mama and the papa are, there are still potential and inherent dangers. Natural man (and woman) have a gracious tendency towards petty jealousies and such.

    However, in the eternities, where we will know everything and be all-loving, etc., I see NO reason for polyandry not to exist as well. We already know that polygamy will exist, and in all likelihood will be reinstated again at some point (after all, it’s a “higher law”, right?). It’s already a sore point with many women that if her spouse dies, she can’t be sealed to any man she currently remarries, unless she’s willing to dissolve her sealing to her first husband. Not so for the guys! How is that fair? Can only men have room in their hearts and eternal lives for more than one woman? Are women so different it couldn’t be the same for us? I already know I am capable of loving more than one person at a time. Will we be forever denied a right to open our hearts and lives to more than one spouse, while only the men get to? What a rub.

    Thus, your article and discovery actually gave me hope. If Joseph Smith and his polyandrous wives actually did it, and somehow weren’t condemned for it, is that a glimmer of true equality I see on the horizon for women?

    With gay marriage being passed in more and more states as legal, I can’t be the only one who’s wondered where this will lead to next. I don’t think I’m wrong in guessing that polygamy, and maybe even polyandry, will be lobbied for next. I will say though that I simply MUST draw the line when, inevitably, people lobby to be able to marry their pets….

      (Quote)  (Reply)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>